Drinking and Driving Among College Students

The Influence of Alcohol Control Policies

During the year 2001, over 16,000 motor vehicle fatalities and 310,000 injuries in the United States involved alcohol. College students have reportedly high rates of heavy episodic drinking and alcohol-related problems, including drinking and driving. However, most college alcohol use studies have been conducted in single colleges or states. This study used a national sample to examine policy factors associated with alcohol use and driving. The study population was a random sample of full-time students (n=10,904) from a nationally representative sample of four-year colleges in 39 states (n=119). Students completed self-administered questionnaires that examined driving after consuming any alcohol, driving after five or more drinks and riding with a high or drunk driver. Researchers linked individual-level data about driving after five or more drinks to information on the policy environment at both local and state levels and to ratings of enforcements for drunk driving laws. Results indicate that only a minority of college students participated in drinking and driving behaviors and there are significant variations in behavior among student subgroups. Several factors were associated with lower rates of student drinking and driving, including attendance of college in states that have more restrictions on underaged drinking, high volume consumption, and sales of alcoholic beverages; and attendance of college in states that devote more resources to enforcing drunk driving laws. Based on these findings, the study concludes that the strong enforcement of comprehensive alcohol policies could provide promising interventions to reduce drinking and driving among college students.

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